Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge available April 10: It’s all about the base

26 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A First Look at the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

On Wednesday morning, Samsung’s two new phones arrived at my desk. As Samsung begins taking orders on Thursday for its new high-end phones, it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that this could be the South Korean electronics giant’s last best shot in the smartphone business. The Samsung Galaxy S6 — along with its brother, the Galaxy S6 Edge — are coming to the U.S. on April 10, with pre-orders starting Friday, March 27. They represent an entirely new design direction from Samsung, with glass and carefully machined aluminum where there was once dimpled plastic that looked a lot like a Band-Aid.

Samsung also faced stiffer competition from Apple, which released a set of popular large-screen phones last fall, and a slew of new Chinese phone makers, including the fast-growing Xiaomi. Samsung is using this year’s Galaxy S line to introduce a new design strategy: Plastic backs and clunky waterproofing are out; glass and metal are in. Come on), Samsung’s apps like S Voice and S Health, the new Microsoft apps like OneDrive (intended to soften the blow of no microSD slot), assorted social apps like Whatsapp and Instagram, and carrier apps (6 on T-Mobile), there’s a ton of cruft.

And despite statements from Samsung that “Samsung has allowed users to remove the pre-installed applications on Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge,” the most severe action you can take is “disabling” them. Rather than the chintzy, faux-leather and faux-metal of Samsung’s recent phones, the S6s are made of glass and aluminum, like the iPhone from Apple and most high-end Android phones. It’s the first phone I can think of that is a fashion play through and through—no one will ever buy this device because it does something special. It became the home for a lot of the phone’s buttons and settings; instead of the shutter button obscuring your subject in the camera app, it was set off to the bottom.

The implementations were somewhat scattershot, and the whole idea needed some refinement and testing from Samsung and its developers, but the sliver of screen on the side seemed to be a cool new place to display ancillary information or offer simple actions without getting in the way of what you’re doing on the big screen. The new UI makes it a four or five minute task as opposed to a seven or eight minute one if you’re going so far as to disable the apps and dive into settings to delete all their stored data. It has exactly two functional differences from the regular S6: You can access your favorite contacts with a swipe in from the right side when you’re on the home screen, and when you set the phone on a table it can light up notifications or a clock you’ll be able to read with your head on a pillow. Both features would be welcome on the regular S6, and neither comes close to justifying the price increase for the S6 Edge. (There’s a third feature, a notification light for when the phone is face down, but since people only put their phones face down to not be distracted by them, that light is unhelpful and thus doesn’t count.) The Edge does look better this time: since it curves on both sides, it feels more symmetrical and less like a chipped tooth. It’s like buying the Apple Watch Edition: It doesn’t do anything beyond the base model, but it’ll be worth the money to some people because of how it looks and the air of exclusivity it communicates.

All the promise of functionality, all the funny little edge-screen games and utilities I hoped people would build, just don’t seem to be part of the plan anymore.

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